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The Effect of Classroom Composition and Size on Learning Outcomes for Italian and Immigrant Students in High School

Elisa Cavicchiolo, Fabio Alivernini


Students cannot change the composition and the size of the classroom they attend, and the effect of these variables on achievement is a source of educational inequality. In this study, based on a representative sample of Italian high school students (N = 26,799), a multilevel analysis was performed to: (i) estimate the overall impact of the structural characteristics of the class on achievements; (ii) identify which of the analysed characteristics were more relevant. The results show that the structure of the classroom has a significant impact on academic performance, and they identify group’s initial learning level and gender composition as the most important factors. The overall socio- economic level of the class and the percentage of immigrant students proved to have a lower impact, which varied according to different geographical areas, and the group size does not seem to be relevant. In conclusion, if the outcome of interest is academic performance, results suggest that the classroom size and the number of immigrant students attending the class has little or no relevance in high school, while the group’s initial achievement, the gender composition and, to a lesser extent, the socio-economic composition of the group should be taken into consideration. Given the complexity of the objectives of the  educational system in Italy, which are by no means limited to the improvement of academic results, future studies will have to examine the effects of the structure of the classroom also on noncognitive outcomes that are closely related to students’ personal and social development.


Classroom composition; Classroom size; Equality; Learning outcomes; Multilevel analysis

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ecps-2018-018-cavi

Copyright (©) 2018 Elisa Cavicchiolo, Fabio Alivernini – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie


Journal of Educational, Cultural and Psychological Studies (ECPS)
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (19/05/2010 n. 278)
Online ISSN 2037-7924 - Print ISSN 2037-7932

Research Laboratory on Didactics and Evaluation - Department of Education - "Roma Tre" University

Executive Editor: Gaetano Domenici - Associate Executive Editor & Managing  Editor: Valeria Biasci
Editorial Board: Eleftheria Argyropoulou - Massimo Baldacci - Joao Barroso - Richard Bates - Christofer Bezzina - Paolo Bonaiuto - Lucia Boncori - Pietro Boscolo - Sara Bubb  - Carlo Felice Casula - Jean-Émile Charlier - Lucia Chiappetta Cajola - Carmela Covato - Jean-Louis Derouet - Peter Early - Franco Frabboni - Constance Katz - James Levin - Pietro Lucisano  - Roberto Maragliano - Romuald Normand - Michael Osborne - Donatella Palomba - Michele Pellerey - Clotilde Pontecorvo - Vitaly V. Rubtzov - Jaap Scheerens - Noah W. Sobe - Francesco Susi - Giuseppe Spadafora - Pat Thomson
Editorial Staff: Fabio Alivernini - Guido Benvenuto - Anna Maria Ciraci - Massimiliano Fiorucci - Luca Mallia - Massimo Margottini - Giovanni Moretti - Carla Roverselli 
Editorial Secretary:
Nazarena Patrizi 

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